Monday, January 7

What, Me Worry?

At my core, I am an optimist.

In a month, I will be thirty-six years old. In two months, I will be a father. Sometime this summer, Rachel and I have to decide if we will remain in Korea for a third year, move to another country where she teaches ESL and I play stay-at-home dad, or return to the U.S. It's a lot to consider in a short span of time.

Maybe we'll stay in Korea and watch as the Republicans steal another election and the United States begins continues to disintegrate under the heel of corporate political influence. Maybe the Democrats will win and, emboldened by a perception of weakness in America, terrorists will strike again and again within our borders. Maybe a third-party candidate will rise from the stink of Nader's failure to... ha-ha, just kidding.

At my core, I am an optimist. I have read too much science fiction to be anything else. Asimov's Foundation and the 30,000 year sweep of psychohistory, Roddenberry's Federation of Planets, Heinlein's long-lived residents of Tertius led by Lazarus Long: these are the shining examples of mankind's destiny where the only problems are The Mule, the Trouble with Tribbles, and finding Time Enough for Love.

The smudge on my rose-colored glasses can be found in other science-fiction: 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 are the two best known examples of Dystopian futures. There are thousands more in short story and novel forms. All carry a central message: man will destroy himself. For all the invasions from Mars, killer comets, solar events, for every galactic calamity to befall the Earth, there is always a character who sells out the human race on some scale, large or small, for personal and usual temporary gain.

I say again: at my core, I am an optimist. But, I am disappointed in people. I see the potential in our human race. I see the wonder-filled futures our greatest minds have imagined. And I see us pissing it all away... just in time for my boy to grow up in a world that has failed.


Dave said...

I want to be excited for my boy and I guess I am, but I'm also worried as hell. There's an innocence that he will never have.

Rachel and I were talking last night about how our childhoods were so different, even though there is less than a decade between us. When I was a kid, school would let out and all the kids were pushed out the front door to walk home. I can't imagine this happening now, though I'm sure it does in pockets of Oblivious America.

This is just one example. Don't even get me started on advertising directed at children under the age of ten years, corporations fostering brand-loyalty in barely formed human minds incapable of tying their own shoes. Go out and buy fucking Bratz dolls so your eight year old daughter can emulate the loose morality of Britney Spears and Paris Fucking Hilton.

These people are not role models. These corporate entities are not looking out for your child's welfare. They are not spending millions to lobby YOUR ELECTED LEADERS to act IN YOUR BEST INTEREST. It's all about the bottom line.

I worry that my child will not have an opportunity to be a child. He will only ever be a consumer, a market, a demographic to be alternately wheedled and pandered to. He will never be an individual with a rich inner life, only a wallet.

This is not the future I want.

Dave said...

BTW: I thought, at first, that this angst was brought on by the post-holiday consumer let-down that I usually feel this time of year.

Now, I'm sure it's not: I actually had a great Christmas- and I HATE Christmas! Rachel and I didn't go all out on gifts. Instead we kept our purchases to a minimum just to have a couple things to open on Christmas morning. We had a bunch of friends over on Christmas Day and a nice big dinner where everyone had a good time.

I wasn't inundated with advertising for once in my life. We don't have cable, so I wasn't forced to watch ad after ad featuring Santa, elves, and sitcom characters wearing reindeer antler hats. There was no Christmas music marathon on the radio, in the mall, at the grocery store. I didn't have to suffer through the bullshit nostalgia of those crappy Claymation Frosty and Rudolph specials.

I was able to enjoy Christmas with my wife, on our terms at our speed. Freaking awesome!

So, from whence does this feeling arise? Stay tuned... I'm sure the answer will pop up soon.

Dave said...

Here's a thought:

In order to be a good father, I am trying to exorcise myself of the demons of consumerism. I am railing against a system that has controlled my life for 34 years. I can finally see the system, now that I am removed from it. Given the perspective of 7500 miles, I can see the system for what it is: corrupt and rotting. I am distancing myself now, so when my son is of an age to appreciate these ideas- or be influenced by them- he will have the same healthy skepticism I had as a Generation X'er, born in the 1970's and coming of age in the 1980's.

I want my boy to understand the motives of advertisers, so he won't fall for every pitch that comes his way. I want him to know that just because it is loud doesn't mean that it is good.

Please don't mistake my hatred of corporate America as being a knock at capitalism. I love my Xbox! I love my Nike sneakers and Toshiba laptop! I could not live as I do without those consumer items and a thousand more.

What I hate is the way it is all forced down our throats. I want to give my son the ability to turn it off so he will not be just another sucker.

Fuck it. I'm going to do some dishes and think about this some more...